We Don’t Need the Government to Make Us Do the Right Thing!Jun 04, 2021
In the face of climate change, polarization, and global volatility, the U.S. government is rolling back laws that protect the environment and people. But . . . Why do we need the government to tell us to do the right thing? As human beings dependent upon a healthy environment, why isn’t every community and organization, simply as a matter of course, concerned about “doing the right thing” for the environment? As human beings dependent upon one another for health and wealth, why aren’t communities and organizations doing the “right thing” for every person?
Can “Right” and “Success” Harmonize?
The bigger question is: How can we do what’s “right” and still be successful, which is most often defined as financial success. Doing the “right thing” should be a simple decision, but it becomes complex in the face of our global monetary-based economy, human desire and fear, media, and political influences. It becomes a complex challenge, and we can only address it by engaging all stakeholders in outcomes-focused conversations inspired by generative questions. In other words, by talking about what we want for the long run (e.g., a healthy environment, a livable wage, equity, etc.) and asking questions that help us think differently while creating positive and innovative solutions.
When “Right” Fuels Success
Some CEOs and business leaders are already engaging in such conversations at both national and international levels. They are exploring what it means to be a business with purpose beyond just profit, what it means to be guided by principles and corporate responsibility, and to ensure long-term success for all stakeholders including the organization. Forbes reports that Purpose-Driven Companies Evolve Faster Than Others.
At Case Western Reserve University, The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit “exists to create a world where business can prosper, human beings can flourish and nature can thrive. We advance Business as an Agent of World Benefit by awarding the annual Flourish Prizes, hosting a Global Forum series, offering the internationally-used AIM2Flourish program, and through research, teaching and applied service.” B Corporations (or Benefit Corporations), freed from the confines of solely maximizing short-term shareholder profits, are discovering the advantages of the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit). According to a HBR article by Suntae Kim and Matthew Karlesky, more and more companies are shifting their business model towards greater corporate responsibility.
Supporting associations are forming, sharing information and fostering conferences to support positive change and solutions to complex challenges such as these. Research is showing that as businesses that make more responsible decisions (responsible to all stakeholders: shareholders, vendors, employees, Directors, community and environment), significantly increase profits over the long run. In other words, C-suite leaders can make the “right” choice and be financially successful. Founder of the fast growing Conscious Capitalism movement, Raj Sisodia and his colleagues have been studying these businesses to learn what works and they’ve published their results in two editions of Firms of Endearment. Their data shows the 10-year ROI for many of these companies is consistently 800% – 1200%! Isn’t that a conversation your organization would want to be in?
You Can Create Change!
Any of us can influence the conversations in our communities and organizations. Ultimately, decisions may be made at a level far above our position, but imagine the influence if every member of an organization kept engaging in conversations fueled by questions such as:
- How might we produce with zero waste?
- What process could we use to avoid toxic substances?
- What might our by-products be used for?
- What could neutralize our toxic footprint?
- How might using renewable energy improve our bottom line?
- How might being a good citizen to the world improve our customer loyalty?
- Would our customers be more loyal and even pay a premium if they understood we were a zero-carbon footprint company?
- How might we serve a broader purpose, adding value for the environment or people beyond our product or service?
- How can make our bottom line be about profit, planet and people?
- What might make my work deeply meaningful?
As customers, we have conversational power as well. We can ask the organizations from which we buy goods and services:
- How are they making sure our water, air, and land remain clean?
- How are they responsible to people and planet as well as profit?
- How are they choosing to do the “right” thing because it is the right thing to do?
And we need to be willing to ask ourselves tough questions, and engage in conversations with our own family:
- Are we willing to pay the price for doing the right thing, e.g., if it means higher costs or a temporary decrease in our own ROI?
- How might we reduce our own waste and toxic footprint?
- How might we be part of the solution in our community and places of work and worship?
- How might we support creative solutions that ultimately increase overall health and wealth for everyone?
Foster Both / And Thinking
We don’t need laws to force us to do the right thing. We need the will and the commitment to foster both / and thinking; to generative conversations that help us find ways to do the right thing and be successful at the same time. Every farmer, every CEO, every board president, every citizen knows it’s a bad idea to pollute our water, bury toxins, and destroy our natural forests. We know it is wrong to hoard wealth while those who help produce it struggle. Only our self-limiting beliefs and lack of imagination keeps us doing what we know is not in the interests of our children’s children. We are human beings, however: creative, intelligent, and capable of amazing ingenuity, especially when we think collectively and positively. How might you inspire conversations that ignite creative genius and inspirecollective will in your communities of influence?
Wherever you are in your organization or community, start asking generative questions to fuel conversations that ignite the collective human spirit to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing.